Review + Photography by John McEvoy

Marc Almond is one of the rare artists who find themselves in the envious position of not having to churn out albums to order. In fact he pretty much pleases himself these days, and so it was that he thought why not do a mini six date UK tour featuring songs from his musical heroes and of course one or two Soft Cell tunes.

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Never having seen him perform before I was intrigued about what this would be like, and straight off the bat I have to say I found him to be an engaging, humorous and all round decent guy.

Hard to believe but Marc Almond has been around for almost 40 years, of course starting off with Soft Cell and the Gloria Jones cover ‘Tainted Love’ which was their first No1 back in ’81. Since then he has been a constant presence especially via his many solo albums, and apparently there’s a new one on the way at the back end of this year.

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This short tour is slightly different in that the covers songs from people (who as he observed, are all now mainly dead!) He has loved and been influenced by throughout the years. When you feature songs from Lour Reed, Marc Bolan and Scott Walker for example you can’t really go wrong.

Backed by a nine piece backing band including four vocalists and a string section opening track ‘I Have Lived’ by Charles Aznavour kick started the two hour set. Between songs he quickly endeared himself to the audience with his self-deprecating humour and admitted that after nearly 40 years his heels were killing him! His version of ‘How Can I Be Sure’ originally done by The Rascals, but included because the loved David Cassidy was flawlessly delivered and featured some stunning backing vocals by the four piece.

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He talked about how Billy Fury was for him at least the British Elvis and his version of ‘I’m Lost Without You’ showed that despite now being 61, his vocals are still as strong as ever. In common with many of us, David Bowie was another one of his heroes and ‘Starman’, and ‘John I’m only Dancing’ were had sections of the crowd up on their feet.

Two tracks for me were real stand outs of the night, ‘Port Of Amsterdam’ by Jacques Brel and ‘What Makes A Man’ (Charles Aznavour) were truly stunning and were a torch singer master class with piano accompaniment.

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In a similar vein ‘Caroline’ with cello and violin backing was another quite simply mesmerising moment. A quick change of tempo and we suddenly went all Eurovision with a rousing rendition of Mary Hopkins ‘Those Were The Days’ which the audience were only too happy to sing along to.

Of course no Marc Almond set would be complete without a bit of Soft Cell, and the duly obliged with a new strings arrangement of ‘Bedsitter’ which as the commented afterwards wasn’t the greatest time of his life.

Does anyone like living in a bedsit?

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‘The Days of Pearly Spencer’ was joyously delivered and people were up and dancing in the aisles by this time. Interestingly when someone in the audience shouted ‘Sex Dwarf’, Almond laughed and said that whilst he’s happy to do some Soft Cell tunes, he would only perform this one with Dave Ball, and he was emphatic that there would be no more Soft Cell reunion gigs. Although the recent O2 Soft Cell gig will be out on DVD shortly apparently.

By the end of the evening it was the moment that everyone was waiting for and ‘Tainted Love’ of course had the desired affect and had everyone in the all seater venue up on their feet. The even encouraged people to dig out their phones and shoot and video their hearts content.

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Sadly this reviewer was confined to the mixing desk for photo duties, but you can’t win ‘em all!

As I mentioned at the start of this review, this was my first time seeing Marc Almond perform, and I have to say it was well worth the drive down to Manchester to catch this gig. This is man at ease with himself, is a consummate, warm and witty performer, has a stupendously strong back catalogue, oh and the also has an OBE!

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Set list (Note this list does change from night to night apparently!)

I Have Lived
Mother Fist
Melancholy Rose
How Can I Be Sure
Not For Me
I’m Lost Without You
Stories of Johnny
What Makes A Man
Big Louise
Land Of Love
Caroline Says
Those Were The Days
A Lover Spurned
Tenderness Is A Weakness
Tears Run Rings
A Kind Of Love
The Days Of Pearly Spencer
Somethings Gotten Hold Of My Heart
Tainted Love/Where Did Our Love Go
Say Hello, Wave Goodbye

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